The Complete Guide to IVF by Kate Brian

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The Complete Guide to IVF by Kate Brian

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An insider's guide to IVF written in a user-friendly way by a fertility expert who has been through the treatment herself - if you're considering IVF this should be required reading.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Piatkus
ISBN: 978-0749909703

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Each year some forty thousand cycles of IVF – in vitro fertilisation – are carried out in the UK and something like a million worldwide. About two hundred thousand IVF babies are born annually with some twelve thousand of those in the UK according to a recent article I read on a BBC site. Fertility expert Kate Brian has followed her Complete Guide to Female Fertility, which we loved, with another indispensable guide – this time to IVF.

Just occasionally you're aware that the perfect person has written a particular book and this is one of those happy moments. Kate Brian knows what she's talking about. She knows it inside out. That's a good starting point, but she doesn't just write – she knows how to communicate. She writes about complex medical issues with clarity. There's no dumbing down – you're going to master the technical terms but there's a helpful glossary provided if you need to refresh your memory on any points – and at the end of it you'll understand not just the 'how' but the 'why' of what's happening. You're going to be a lot better equipped to deal with the professionals, your colleagues and family and friends.

The best part of all though is that Kate has two children who were born after IVF treatment. The book is both professional and personal.

The book starts from the basics – how human reproduction works and why it sometimes doesn't work as it should. The options are explained along with the part which IVF can play. Once you've reached that stage it's easy to find yourself on a roller-coaster – of treatments and emotions – but Kate helpfully slows everything down to give you chance to think. Don't feel that you have to go to a particular treatment centre. Some clinics will suit better than others – what suited your friend might not be right for you – and the checklist Kate provides will help you to weigh up all the options.

The days when patients were expected to accept treatment without explanation are thankfully long gone, but at a time when emotions are highly charged (and occasionally more so because of the drugs which you might have to take) it's easy to forget to ask questions or just to be unable to cope with everything. Kate provides insight from both sides about the processes which both the man and the woman have to undergo. Throughout the book the points are illustrated by direct quotes from patients, doctors, nurses and technicians as well as Kate's own experience. These are not restricted to what you might think of as the big points either – I felt more at one with the whole process once I realised quite how embryologists feel when they have to ring a patient to say that a cycle hasn't been successful.

Once the partners walk out of the clinic having provided eggs and sperm it's easy to feel that you're divorced from the process, but Kate explains what happens in detail. There's reassurance about how the eggs and sperm are kept, how any movements are witnessed, the sort of temperatures which are maintained and even how the laboratory is cleaned. The implantation of the embryos (and the options available to you as to when and how many) are similarly treated.

Too often the emotional aspects of IVF are ignored, even by professionals and certainly by friends and families, but Kate looks at what happens sympathetically and suggests how the problems can be countered. To anyone undergoing IVF this section of the book alone could be worth the cost – it's very easy to feel lonely and isolated when having IVF and it can go on for years – but knowing that it's not just you and that there are resources there to help can lessen the strain on the individual and their relationships. There's also useful guidance about how you're likely to be treated at work and what sort of time you're likely to need away from the job.

I was surprised in the section about what you can do to help yourself. I nodded my way wisely through the parts about no smoking (either of you!), moderate alcohol consumption and healthy diets, but the impact exercise might have on women becoming pregnant surprised me. The overall advice though is that you should invest in a healthy lifestyle before you start fertility treatment to give it the best chance of success.

Some cycles are, inevitably, not going to be successful and the advice on how you should deal with this is sympathetic and down-to-earth. As with all the other sections there's information about how to recover and how best to help yourself. Finally there's advice on the successful outcomes and how this affects pregnancy.

If you're considering IVF or if a family member is considering it then this book should be required reading for the men and the women involved. We can't recommend it highly enough.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

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